Pin-striped Buddha main star at annual love-in
Weekend Fine Gael conference was really the Michael Noonan Show
Taoiseach Enda Kenny arriving to make his address at the end of the second day of the Fine Gael National Conference in Limerick. Photograph: Alan Betson
Following a successful pregnancy and a bit of a wallop, we are poised to regain our virginity on December 15th.
Time to party.
At 6pm, all across the land, people will pause, raise foaming steins to the sky and shout: “To Baldy!”
And then we will exit the bailout.
B-Day – it’ll be bigger than Christmas.
It was the main talking point at the political event of the weekend – misleadingly called a Fine Gael conference when it was really the Michael Noonan Show, with Enda and his Ministers cast in the role of supporting actors.
Incidental Enda got a warm welcome and the obligatory standing ovation for a bland keynote address; deputy leader James Reilly got a decidedly lukewarm reception (despite referring to Ireland’s recent European presidency as “our pregnancy”) but Noonan, who has assumed godlike status among the FG faithful, was the star.
Before lunch, at the cloying mutual-admiration session chaired by chirpy Mairead McGuinness, the organisers stuffed Michael into a tub chair and left him centre stage for the two hours while the minor players indulged in an orgy of self-congratulation.
There he sat, Fine Gael’s very own pin-striped Buddha, radiating contentment as the others did their stuff around him.
There was a brief interview with Mairead, who made reference to tomorrow’s budget. Nearly all done?
“Aaah, there’s bits and bobs, ya know,” he smirked. Like what? “Some bells and whistles.”
How they laughed.
Although after the budget, somebody will end up paying for those little bits and bobs. And one man’s bells and whistles could represent another’s financial breaking point.
The revered former leader was top of the bill. Mairead could hardly contain her excitement.
“We have a very important speaker to listen very carefully to, although I think sometimes his silence speaks louder than his words.”
And him about to make a speech.
When the Minister affectionately known to many as “Baldy” eventually eased himself out of his snug bucket seat, the delegates cheered. Even Enda came in for a look.
Like a fella on the next bar stool giving them a steer, Noonan took them through the finer points of our economy by way of Lanigan’s Ball, celebrity economists, Iceland, Argentina and averting the appalling vista of “middle-class decent people, who lost their jobs, searching through dustbins for food to feed their family”.
And we’ll get our sovereignty back by Christmas. Or virginity, as Calamity James probably calls it.
“So, we’re well fixed,” he drawled, with that Torquemada smile. The audience swooned.
It was the same in the evening. During the build-up to the Taoiseach’s appearance, master of ceremonies Jerry Buttimer introduced him as “the Paul O’Connell of Irish politics” and the crowd responded with a thunderous standing ovation.
The Minister for Health was next. There was a marked difference in the reception he received from the delegates.
The only chance James Reilly had of getting a standing ovation on Saturday night was if somebody set off the fire alarm.